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Penn State selects Bill O’Brien to lead football program

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Penn State has selected Bill O’Brien, the New England Patriots offensive coordinator, as its 15th head football coach in its storied 125-year history.

O’Brien’s appointment was announced Friday evening by Penn State president Rodney Erickson and Dave Joyner, Acting Director of Athletics. A 14-year veteran in the collegiate coaching ranks prior to his National Football League experience, O’Brien will be introduced on the Penn State campus Saturday.

A member of the Patriots’ coaching staff since 2007, including the last three mentoring the quarterbacks, O’Brien has worked with some of the game’s most successful and innovative coaches and players in his 19-year coaching career. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Wes Welker, Randy Moss, Ralph Friedgen, George O’Leary and Chan Gailey are among the coaches and players he has teamed with throughout his career.

A graduate of Brown University, also the alma mater of Hall of Fame predecessor Joe Paterno, O’Brien joined Belichick’s staff in New England as a coaching assistant in 2007 after 14 seasons on the staffs of Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke. He served as the Patriots’ wide receivers coach in 2008, was the quarterbacks coach in 2009-10 and was appointed offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach prior to the 2011 season.

“The Penn State football program has a great legacy and has contributed enormously to our University community,” said Rodney A. Erickson, president of Penn State University. “A program of this caliber requires a special kind of leader – a leader who will embrace that legacy and maintain the University’s commitment to excellence on the field and in the classroom. We have that leader in Coach O’Brien, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.”

“We have found the man to take Penn State football forward,” said Dave Joyner, Penn State acting director of athletics. “Needless to say, we have been looking for someone with some very special qualities, beginning with a heart that beats to the values and vision of Penn State University and our Penn State football legacy and tradition.  That was our starting point, and Coach O’Brien exemplifies those traits that Penn Staters hold so highly.  In addition to his model characteristics as a man and a teacher, he’s all about producing winners, and doing so the right way.  He will embrace tradition, demand excellence and pursue Success with Honor in every phase of our program.”

“I am thrilled to be the head coach of the Penn State football program,” stated O’Brien. “I cannot tell you how excited I am to get started, meet the team, meet the football alumni and meet all of the people that make this University so special. As head coach of this special football program, it is my responsibility to ensure that this program represents the highest level of character, respect and integrity in everything we do. That includes my coaching staff, our players and everyone involved in the football program. There is tremendous pride in Penn State football and will never, ever take that for granted.”

This season, O’Brien has been instrumental in New England earning a 13-3 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. The Patriots have scored 513 points (32.1 avg.), the AFC’s highest mark and No. 3 in the NFL. New England is second in the NFL in total offense (428.0 ypg) and passing (317.8 ypg).

Under O’Brien’s tutelage, Brady has thrown for 5,235 yards (No. 2 in NFL) and 39 touchdowns this season, as the Patriots won their final eight games. Wide receiver Welker leads the NFL with 122 receptions and his 1,569 receiving yards to rank second in the NFL. Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski (90-1,327) rank No. 1-2 in the AFC in receiving yardage. Gronkowski leads the NFL with 17 touchdown receptions.

Under O’Brien’s direction, Brady became the first unanimous Associated Press MVP in 2010 in leading the Patriots to an NFL-best 14-2 mark.

O’Brien began his coaching career at his alma mater, working with the tight ends in 1993 and the inside linebackers in 1994. He joined O’Leary’s Georgia Tech staff in 1995, helping the Yellow Jackets to bowl appearances in each of his last six seasons. O’Brien was an offensive graduate assistant his initial three years in Atlanta. Working with then-offensive coordinator Friedgen, O’Brien served as the Yellow Jackets’ running backs coach from 1998-2000. Georgia Tech finished no lower than third in the Atlantic Coast Conference in rushing all three seasons. O’Brien was promoted to Georgia Tech’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2001 and assistant head coach in 2002.
O’Brien was reunited with Friedgen in 2003, joining his Maryland staff as running backs coach. The Terrapins finished second in the ACC in rushing in his first season and defeated West Virginia, 41-7, in the Gator Bowl. Following two years in College Park, O’Brien served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Duke in 2005 and ’06 before joining the Patriots’ coaching staff.

Born in Dorchester, Mass. O’Brien was raised in Andover, a Boston suburb.  He played linebacker and defensive end at Brown from 1990-92, graduating in 1992 with a double concentration in political science and organizational behavior management.

O’Brien and his wife, Colleen, have two sons, Jack and Michael.

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